Gull-billed Tern – Machynys, Carmarthenshire

Sara was taking the guides on camp to Bramshaw on Sunday 28th July and I agreed to help Terry set up the camp. We’d finished at about 1pm and I headed back to Poole to check that the house was OK, we’d being staying in Salisbury for the last few days. I had decided to take Monday off so that I could go up to Wales to add to my year list record attempt and with the added attraction that a Gull-billed Tern had been at Machynys near Llanelli for the last couple of weeks. It would also be nice to see Alyson in Cardiff and I arranged to stay overnight with them on Sunday.

I left Poole at about 2pm. The weather had been fine but as I hit the M5 the rain started and it evidently caused several accidents up ahead and the traffic ground to a halt. I rang Birdline from the car and heard that the tern had moved from Machynys to Penlcahlyn Wildlife Centre and with the traffic having delayed me by nearly an hour I was a little anxious, particularly as the reserve closed at 6pm. The traffic cleared but the rain did not, I began to really push it hard and doing 90mph in the rain I arrived at the Wildfowl Reserve at 6:08pm, they wouldn’t let me in! I now felt sure that I would have to come back first thing the next day.  I had little alternative but to head to Machynys and hope that the tern returned there.

I parked the car at 6:20pm at a suitable spot in Machynys and began to scan the mud, I wasn’t even sure that this was the right place. Thankfully another birder turned up (Paul Gale), he told me that this was the best spot but that the bird only visited here at low tide when the muddy margins were exposed, low tide was some way off. 

We chatted for about 30 minutes checking ever so often to make sure that the tern hadn’t flown in. Although it was good to talk to someone about field artwork and photography I was fairly dispirited as I began to realise that I would need to return here or to the reserve at Penchlaclyn the next morning, this would also reduce the time available for me in Mid and North Wales. Rather embarrassingly another birder turned up and almost immediately he called out that the bird was on show. We couldn’t believe it but he was right!

I spent the next 20 minutes or so watching the summer plumaged Gull-billed Tern before leaving at about 7:10pm. I arrived at Aly & James’ house for tea at 8pm.

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